In many industries, workers are likely to suffer personal harm in the line of work. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is key to improving worker safety in these environments, but safety could be further improved with better monitoring. Intelligent materials can address this by incorporating smart sensing textiles into garments and footwear to monitor a worker's environment. Scientists working on the EU-funded TIIWS (Thin multilayered PVDF based piezo co-polymer for textile integrated intelligent wearable self-sustained monitoring and safety applications in garment and footwear) project developed innovative textile sensors based on polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) copolymers. PVDF copolymers have excellent chemical, abrasion, heat and flame resistance as well as ultraviolet stability, making them an excellent starting material for smart textiles. Scientists optimised polymer formulations and pre-processing methods, and designed a multilayered composite consisting of active polymer, electrodes and protective layers. The textile-based piezoelectric materials are flexible, durable, reliable and show improved power generation, overcoming the limitations of traditional piezoelectric materials. Sensors and active materials were integrated into material active sensing systems, tailored for specific end-use applications. A major output of TIIWS were the processes and techniques used to produce these smart materials, which can be applied to other products. These sensing textile systems were then incorporated into smart garment and footwear prototypes, creating new product and market opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises working in the smart textiles sector. Researchers tested the prototypes for their intended purpose as smart garments, and validated them against user-centric criteria such as comfort and design. TIIWS has overcome the challenges of integrating piezoelectric sensing functionality into garments and footwear with novel polymers and processing techniques. The findings of this project will improve the safety and comfort of athletes, the elderly and those working in hazardous environments.
Smart textiles, footwear, personal protective equipment, worker safety, TIIWS, PVDF copolymers